zaterdag 30 juli 2011
At the Front in North Africa with the U.S. Army (1943)
Experience the American Journey through our country's visual heritage in this historical recording provided by the National Archives of the United States. This film from the CIA Film Library covers activities during World War II relating to tank forces, troop review, artillery, Prisoners of War and the care of wounded in the area of Sidi Bel Abbes and the city of Algiers. This historical recording from the National Archives may contain variations in audio and video quality based on the limitations of the original source material. The content summary for this DVD is adapted from an historical description provided by the government agency or donor at the time of production release.
During the Second World War, the North African Campaign took place in North Africa from 10 June 1940-16 May 1943. It included campaigns fought in the Libyan and Egyptian deserts (Western Desert Campaign, also known as the Desert War) and in Morocco and Algeria (Operation Torch) and Tunisia (Tunisia Campaign).
The campaign was fought between the Allies and Axis powers. The Allied war effort was dominated by the British Commonwealth and exiles from German--occupied Europe. The United States entered the war in 1941 and began direct military assistance in North Africa, on 11 May 1942.
Fighting in North Africa started with the Italian declaration of war on 10 June 1940. On 14 June, the British Army's 11th Hussars (assisted by elements of the 1st Royal Tank Regiment [1st RTR] ) crossed the border into Libya and captured the Italian Fort Capuzzo. This was followed by an Italian offensive into Egypt and the capture of Sidi Barrani in September 1940 and then in December 1940 by a Commonwealth counteroffensive, Operation Compass. During Operation Compass, the Italian Tenth Army was destroyed and the German Afrika Korps, commanded by Erwin Rommel, was dispatched to North Africa, during Operation Sonnenblume, to reinforce Italian forces in order to prevent a complete Axis defeat.
A see-saw series of battles for control of Libya and parts of Egypt followed, reaching a climax in the Second Battle of El Alamein when British Commonwealth forces under the command of Lieutenant-General Bernard Montgomery, delivered a decisive defeat to the Axis forces and pushed them back to Tunisia. After the late 1942 Allied Operation Torch landings in North-West Africa, and subsequent battles against Vichy France forces (who then changed sides), the Allies finally encircled Axis forces in northern Tunisia and forced their surrender.
The Axis, by fighting against the Soviet Union on the Eastern Front, provided relief for the British and later American forces fighting in North Africa. Information gleaned via British Ultra code-breaking intelligence proved critical to Allied success in North Africa.
Following the Operation Torch landings, (from early November 1942), the Germans and Italians initiated a build up of troops in Tunisia to fill the vacuum left by Vichy troops which had withdrawn. During this period of weakness, the Allies decided against a rapid advance into Tunisia while they wrestled with the Vichy authorities. Many of the Allied soldiers were tied up in garrison duties because of the uncertain status and intentions of the Vichy forces.
By mid-November, the Allies were able to advance into Tunisia but only in single division strength. By early December the Eastern Task Force, which had been redesignated British First Army under Lieutenant-General Kenneth Anderson, was composed of British 78th Infantry Division, 6th Armoured Division, 1st Parachute Brigade, 6th Commando and elements of U.S. 1st Armored Division. But by this time, one German and five Italian divisions had been shipped from Europe and the remoteness of Allied airfields from the front line gave the Axis clear air superiority over the battlefield. The Allies were halted and pushed back having advanced eastwards to within 30 km (19 mi) of Tunis.
During the winter, there followed a period of stalemate during which time both sides continued to build up their forces. By the new year, the British First Army had one British, one U.S. and one French Corps (a second British Corps headquarters was activated in April). In the second half of February, in eastern Tunisia, Rommel and von Arnim had some successes against the mainly inexperienced French and U.S. Corps, most notably in routing the US II Corps commanded by Major-General Lloyd Fredendall at the Battle of the Kasserine Pass.
By the beginning of March, the Eighth Army, advancing westwards along the North African coast, had reached the Tunisian border. Rommel and von Arnim found themselves in an Allied "two army" pincer. They were outflanked, outmanned and outgunned. The British Eighth Army bypassed the Axis defence on the Mareth Line in late March and First Army in central Tunisia launched their main offensive in mid April to squeeze the Axis forces until their resistance in Africa collapsed. The Axis forces surrendered on 13 May 1943 yielding over 275,000 prisoners of war. This huge loss of experienced troops greatly reduced the military capacity of the Axis powers, although the largest percentage of Axis troops escaped Tunisia. This defeat in Africa led to all Italian colonies in Africa being captured.
After victory by the Allies in the North African Campaign, the stage was set for the Italian Campaign to begin. The invasion of Sicily followed two months later.